Most of us know that what we see on the big screen is just for entertainment; we aren’t foolish enough to think that movies can teach us anything about human nature, or morals, or about life. Right? Of course we aren’t! As intelligent beings, we understand that knowledge and wisdom comes from our parents, and from schools and books; not what we see on a movie screen! Because movies are for feeling good and escapism, not learning! Surely we can’t be wrong about that. Or could we?get ad expect from what they see on the big screen, because there is never anything more.
In 1991, a writer and director by the name of John Singleton* debuted his first film, Boyz in the Hood. Through a combination of realism and emotional grit, Singleton delivered a clear message of the perils visited upon African American boys who grow up without fathers in the home. Prior to that, there was Claudine, a 1974 film written by Lester and Tina Pine and directed by John Berry. Though that film took on a less serious tone, it too delved into the pitfalls of single motherhood in the black community, but took it a step further. Claudine revealed how the welfare system in America was used as a tool for the systematic removal of the Black Man from the family home. Almost a decade after Claudine came Trading Places, a film written by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod in 1983. This comedy and box office success, by Hollywood standards, poked fun at how much wealth is determined by social status and racial privilege, as opposed to hard work and ingenuity.
So it’s clear, Hollywood does have a way of getting important messages across through the big screen. Those are just three examples, but many movies follow suit: through comedy, drama and satire, filmmakers layer deeper meanings beneath the unsuspecting guise of a larger picture, leaving viewers the option to uncover them or not. Here are seven more movies that fit this mold; Each reveal gems about the wonders and tribulations of life and love in the midst of a larger plot.
1. Love and basketball—“I’ll play you for it!”
Monica and Quincy have known each other their whole lives, forming a bond and an eventual love affair that catapulted the two into the depths of young love. But, as life would have it, circumstances such as self-discovery, divorce, and injury placed weights on the pair that their relationship could not sustain. After a five year break up, Monica sees an opportunity to win back her first and only true love through the unlikeliest means– a midnight game of one-on-one basketball. “I’ll play you for it,” Monica tells Quincy outside of his window, driven there as much by desperation as love. When Quincy asks for what is is they would be playing, Monica tells him matter of factly that the prize would be his heart!
Love Lesson—Love is a game, as is life. There are rules, players, adversaries and opponents; sometimes we win and other times we lose. What’s important about any game, however, is not just understanding the rules, it’s actually having the courage to play. So many people miss out on opportunities, friendships, jobs, and love, because they’re too afraid– of looking foolish, of making a mistake, or of God forbid, just losing period– so they don’t even get into the game (metaphorically speaking). Monica put her pride aside and risked Quincy’s rejection at the slim chance of gaining a much greater reward– his love. Funny thing is, Monica did in fact lose the game; in a head to head battle on the backyard court, it was Quincy who hit the game winning shot. But, in a tear jerking twist of events and with Quincy’s words, “Double or nothing,” Monica ultimately gained back his love and won big time. Conclusion: The game of love is meant to be played!
2. Baby boy—“Why you so insecure……?”
Jody and Yvette’s relationship can be described in two words, dysfunctional roller-coaster. Not only is Jody immature and promiscuous, Yvette is antagonistic and mouthy, with no boundaries to back up her words. Together, the pair is one big mess! Things come to head between them after Yvette finds a condom in her car and suspects him once again of cheating, only this time, with her co-worker. An argument ensues during which Jody asks, “Why you so insecure Yvette?”, to which she replies, “Jody, If I am insecure, it’s because you made me this way!”
Love Lesson—Insecurity, lack of confidence, and emotional fragility is unnatractive. No one wants a partner that needs constant reassuring. On the flip side however, being with a mate that belittles you, is a habitual liar or cheater, or one who renders any forms of abuse can actually cause those feelings in the first place. Conclusion: Picking the right mate is critical to having a healthy relationship, however, it is just as important to be the right mate as well; one doesn’t work without the other.
3. The Color Purple—“I’m here!”
Ms. Celie was not only a child when her father married her off to Mister, a widowed man many years her senior, she had also given birth by incest twice. If that weren’t enough to shatter Celie’s young spirit, Mister’s mental and physical abuse definitely was. After years of suffering in silence, Celie finally summons the courage to leave and tells Mister so, but her departure beckons one final verbal assault. This time, however, the scenario plays out differently; instead of muting her voice the way she’d done for years, Celie not only speaks up in her own defense, she curses Mister to the same misery that she endured at his hands. As she drives off to discover the new life that awaits her, Celie leaves Mister speechless with these parting words, “I’m poor, black, I may even be ugly, but dear God, I’m here!”
Love Lesson—Healthy relationships require that both people be equally committed for for them to be successful. Unfortunately, there are times in relationships where only one person is present mentally, physically, or emotionally, which is dangerous. Such was the case with Celie; she was never emotionally present in her marriage, because she never wanted the marriage or her husband from the beginning. When she finally got the courage to leave, it was the first time in her life that she was able to decide for herself where she wanted to be, and that of course wasn’t with Mister. Conclusion: In love, if you can’t be all in, it’s best to get out!
4. Love Jones—“That’s Urgent like a Motherf’er!”
Darius and Nina had to be the coolest couple to usher out the 90’s, and they did it with crazy style! Darius Lovehall, a poet and music connoisseur, and Nina Mosley, a newly single photographer, hit it off very quickly after meeting. A whirlwind love affair ensued, punctuated throughout with the wisdom of King Darius, dropping intellectual jewels at just the right time; but then things went south. After a devastating break up, Darius makes a heartfelt, albeit untimely, attempt at winning Nina back. Putting up a hard front, Nina asks Darius, “Why is everything so urgent with you?” Darius’ answer is priceless! “Let me tell you something,” he says, “this here, right now, at this very moment is all that matters to me. I love you, and that’s urgent like a motherf’er!”
Love Lesson– There’s a cliché’ that says the past is gone and the future isn’t promised. All we have left essentially is the present– the here and now. Waiting for the right time, then, or for another person’s receptiveness, can be fatal when it comes to love. Darius risked his pride and exposed his vulnerability by exclaiming his love for Nina out in the rain, not knowing if he’d get another opportunity. His efforts won her back! Conclusion: When it comes to love, taking a chance and seizing the moment can pay off in monumental ways!
5. Lackawanna Blues—“………..no one else understands.“
Rachel Crosby, more affectionately known as Nannie, or Mama, was a saint to most who knew her. As the sole proprietor of her own boarding house, Nannie rescued many a wayward soul down on their luck. What she couldn’t save, however, was the damage done to her heart by her philandering husband, Bill. Seventeen years her junior, many wondered why a woman as pulled together as Nannie would put up with him. Nannie explained it like this: “Sometimes a man and a woman have an understanding that no one else understands, not even their own selves.”
Love Lesson—Love is a peculiar thing; it’s an emotion– a feeling– that sparks actions that are often impossible to control or explain. Rachel Crosby’s marriage, though unconventional, may have been toxic by other people’s standards, nonetheless, it fit snugly around and into her very eccentric life. In the end, Nannie and Bill were married until death parted them. Conclusion: A Union between two people need only to be understood by the people within it.
6. Boomerang—“Love, should’a brought yo ass home last night!”
Marcus and Angela were never supposed to be together, but as fate would have it, their stars magically aligned. Or, their union might of just happened because Marcus, the ultra-successful marketing executive and ladies man, was fresh off the heels of being unexpectantly dumped. Whatever the case, a love affair between the two ensued, but it was not a fairytale. Marcus returned to the woman who dumped him and slept with her. Upon discovering this betrayal, Angela probes Marcus about his actions. “There’s certain things you just have no control over,” he tells her. “Like what?” she asks. “Like love.” Marcus rebutts. Though Angela is livid, she keeps enough presence of mind to bestow upon Marcus a few wise words. “Love, should have brought your ass home last night!” she tells him, then walks stoically out of the door!
Love Lesson—In love, words of affirmation are wonderful, but they must be accompanied by actions that back them up. Marcus’s verbal declaration of love for Angela was completely diminished by both his failure to be honest and his cheating. Angela made it clear that for her, words and actions are equally important and she backed up her stance by leaving the relationship! Conclusion: In love, words are nice, but they must be proven with substantiating actions.
7. Soul Food—“Yo, who the hell is Cola?”
Byrd and Lem are the epitome of young love. Newly married, the two have a physical, sexual and emotional attraction to one another that cause folks who’ve been there to reminisce, and those who haven’t, to envy. But, with youth comes immaturity and a myriad of foolish mistakes; like the one Byrd made in having her ex-lover help her new husband, Lem, secure a job—all under Lem’s nose, of course. The messy situation becomes catastrophic when Lem finds out from the one person who is all too eager to tell– the ex. “Yeah, me and ol’ Cola, we go way back,” the ex explains, relishing the memory of Byrd’s Coca-Cola shaped figure. Understandably, this infuriates Lem. What ensues is mayhem in the form of the ex’s smashed face, courtesy of Lem, the loss of Lem’s job, courtesy of the ex, and the marital separation of Byrd and Lem.
Love Lesson: Relationships are hard enough as it is, but adding lies, manipulation and outside influences to them are a sure fire way to ruin them completely! Though Byrd’s intentions were certainly noble—to help her husband secure employment—her method was counterproductive. By soliciting a former lover behind Lem’s back, Byrd broke trust with her husband and became the catalyst behind him losing the very job she finagled for him to get. Conclusion: In relationships, even the best intentions are ruined when lies are involved!
***In loving memory of the Brilliant John Singleton, (January 6, 1968 – April 29, 2019), a bright light who tripled as a Film Writer, Director and Producer, among many other things; He came to bestow his magic upon us for just a little while. May his creative genius and legacy live on! May we always remember.
Help us add to this list: Tell about a love lesson you learned from your favorite movie? We want to hear from you.